Monday, April 9, 2012

Reading into Toys and Play

Were you allowed to take toys to your elementary school? Many schools ban toys from classrooms because they are distracting to students who should be doing their academic work. This might result in children bringing toys to school without their parents' or teachers' knowledge and hiding their play from adults.

What if, instead of banning toys, teachers encouraged and provided them? If this were the norm in elementary classrooms, students would have no reason to hide play - one of the most important and meaningful parts of their lives - from their teachers. Teachers who incorporate toys and play into their academics are helping their students interact with popular, cultural texts. After all, toys are texts - items to be "read," interpreted, and critiqued in different ways by different people.

Including toys in the classroom during reading and writing workshops can provide focus and inspiration to students. We never know what might be the key to unlocking a child's love of literacy, and giving students the opportunity to work with toys, stories, or characters they already know and love gives them more chances for personally and culturally meaningful literacy experiences.

Rather than fear distractions caused by toys at school, teachers should embrace the opportunity for students to play into literacy. Teachers will learn more about their students and students will learn to navigate through a complex literacy world outside of leveled readers and generic texts.